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Editing laid bare?

Imagine your're putting together a documentary, or just a news story for the screen, and all the people you feature in your story blog the entire transcript, or their key quotes, for fear your editing should misrepresent their positions. That's exactly what happened when CNN put together their story, Dark side of the Net, on the recent firestorm in the wake of death threats against A-list blogger Kathy Sierra (Creating Passionate Users).

After he let himself be interviewed for the programme, Cluetrain co-author David Weinberger, blogged about CNN as the knot in his stomach, carefully putting his quotes in context and talking about his fear of loosing control of his words. Kathy Sierra and Chris Locke, another Cluetrain co-author, who had been on opposite ends of the firestorm, put out a joint statement in advance of the programme, detailing their positions and warning against those who may cease upon the incident as an excuse to regulate or limit free speech and open debate.

Adding to the wariness before the show aired, Adriana Lukas, blogger and social media consultant, wrote: "Let's see what CNN does with the Dark Side of the Net piece. I have a feeling many will be watching and immediately providing their side of the story. The light may end up shining on the dark side of journalism..."

Now the story has aired and it seems CNN did a fairly decent job of putting the programme together, though Weinberger has yet to comment in full, (I haven't had an opportunity to watch it, see the clip here), but this story is a perfect illustration of 1) the staggering lack of trust in mainstream media 2) how the publishing revolution, internet revolution, whatever you choose to call it, empowers individuals to tell their side of the story and creates radical transparency.

In this way, media coverage can be put on trial every bit of the way, though of course, as long as there is no taped record, this 'opportunity' is also open for abuse and you can get word-against-word scenarios. That, I think, only serves to strengthen the need for good method reports and continually justifying, and being transparent about, editorial decisions.

Update 05/04: even BBC's Richard Sambrook recently took the opportunity to expand on this positions and answer criticism on his blog after his appeareance on Iain Dale's show on 18Doughty Street web TV, thereby creating yet another window for continuing the debate. A future trend?


Kristine, I have been doing this for almost a year as follow-ups to my TV appearances on Good Morning. While a morning TV programme is not as serious as news broadcasts, I think it’s inevitable that many bloggers will wish to “extend the dialogue”.

Still, I think this is a very interesting trend, especially when dealing with very controversial programmes or issues.

In the case of live interviews it certainly extends the dialogue, which I think is very healthy, but in the case of edited programmes as that of CNN, and in the case of documentaries, investigative and others, all forms of attempts at on screen 'history-writing', the opportunity of all the involved to publish their own accounts on blogs really exposes the editing. Whereas before many complained about 'trial by television' this really opens the way for media being put on trial. Now, overall I think this is healthy, but it will require more of TV-productions in terms of method reports, transparency etc.

Recording or making transcripts of media interviews is not a new trend, it has been evident for many, many years. Watch next time a major politician is interviewed in the street by the media, and see how many of his or her own people also record what happens.

The trust with the media flew out long ago, and is unlikely ever to come back again: too many jobs have been sacrificed by people in high places because their comments were taken out of context, and too many millions of dollars made by the media as a result.


Using blogs to comment on ones own TV appearance, be it in an interview or documentary, thereby extending the dialogue, is not very common as of yet in my part of the world, maybe because blogs aren't that widespread here yet.

Using a website to do this is absolutely quite common among politicians, and especially companies, but then it takes the form of one-way statements, usually restating that they 'uphold their position', often phrased in corporate or political gobblydygook, which to most people rarely invoke more credit than the media, far more often it invokes less.

So I still think using blogs in this way creates new and radical transparency, and extends the debate and conversation in a very interesting way which may force a change in how media cover things, or at least make different demands on the methods applied and transparency about these.

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